113:  I Propose a Revel

A dark-eyed woman with loosely arranged reddish gold hair.
The Pretty Penny, better known as Penelope, Lady Rich (nee Devereux).  Elizabeth Vernon’s cousin, and the Earl of Essex sister.

Linkin sayt to me, “There’s no call for you to go to Essex House, now our Earl and the Earl of Essex are gone to Ireland.  And I hear tell that our Earl’s Puss [Bess] and the Pretty Penny have quit that house, too.”

“What?” I cried.  “Those ladies were at Essex House?  With our Earl?  Why did you not tell me?”

“I couldn’t swear to the truth of it,” sayt he, narrowing his eyes most amiable.

I sayt he’d wished to keep me as his secretarie, lest he should require more informations on Ireland for Paws’ fool parlement.

A parlement where I had no voice, because I, having no household of mine own, was not a member.

Then it came to me.

While all waited for newes from Ireland, I would make a revel.  A night of mirth and merriment, such as we had in Titchfield.  With no Paws to tell us to keep our thoughts to ourselves or leave.

I went to tell Onix of my plat [plan].  He was taking the sun in his doorway.

A black and white cat seated in the doorway of an Elizabethan house.But no sooner had I spake of songs and interludes than he grew timorous.

“By interludes,” he arrkst, “mean you plays?  Plays are not permitted here.”

“I do not mean a play,” sayt I.  “My uncle made a play, and I acted a maggot in it.  But a play requires preparations.  I mean no more than a merry tale or two.  Linkin knows of a banquet where all the guests were murthered.  Who would not wish to hear of that?”

Onix scarce heeded me.  “There was a playhouse here, for the better sort,” he sayt.  “My mother’s mother had employment there.”

“What?” I cried.  “Linkin never told me of a playhouse in these parts.”

“’Tis long gone,” sayt he.  “And when some players wished to make another, none would have it.  No, not even the Lord Chamberlain hisself, though those same players were his servants.”

Then Onix told me that all here in Black-Fryes [Blackfriars] had sayt a common playhouse would be a great annoyance to them.

A fair, delicate-featured woman in a black gown with a white ruff and a voluminous white head-dress.
Elizabeth, Lady Russell (nee Cooke).  A leader of the anti-playhouse faction in Blackfriars.

All manner of lewd and vagrant persons would come hither under colour of resorting to plays, but in truth to make mischief.  Breaking of windows, picking and stealing, wauling and brawling.

He sayt, “The streets would be so pestered with rogues, no honest folks could go about their business in good time.   As my mistress must, when she is sent for.

“No, nor honest cats neither.  Strange folks would affront us by leaving their excrements by our gates and their marks against our walls.  We would have much ado to o’er mark them, and scarce time for our own business.

“And what,” he arrkst, “if it should please the Queen Cat of Heaven to visit sickness on this citie?  Having our streets so throng would imperil all.  Best that common playhouses are kept without the citie walls, where all such evils belong.”

I remembered all the stranger cats that came to our Field to see my uncle’s play, and the revel-rout that followed hard upon it.  Onix spake true.

To assuage him, I told him my revel would not be for common cats.  We would invite only our private friends.

“We don’t have any friends,” sayt Onix.

I sayt, “When next you see Picker and Stealer, tell them of a Spring Revel that only our invited friends may attend.  Soon you’ll be mazed to learn how many friends we have.” 


Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorThe Earl of Southampton’s wife, Elizabeth (Bess) Vernon was close to her cousin Penelope, Lady Rich (1563-1607) – the Earl of Essex’s sister.

When the Earls left for Ireland, Penelope and Bess travelled to Chartley Manor in Staffordshire, formerly the Devereux family home.

Chartley Manor

The precinct of Blackfriars in London takes its name from a large Dominican monastery that once stood there.  Parts of it were used by government for meetings of Parliament and the Privy Council, which might explain why the cats of nearby St Paul’s got the idea of holding their own parlement.

When the monastery became a crown property in 1538, some parts continued to be used for government purposes and others were leased out.  From 1576 to 1584 select companies of choirboy actors from the Chapels Royal gave performances in a theatre there.

In 1596 the joiner-turned-actor/developer James Burbage (c.1531-1597) acquired part of the property to construct a playhouse for his company of adult actors.  This company had as its patron George Carey, Lord Unsdon.  At the time the company was known as Lord Hunsdon’s Men, but when Lord Hunsdon became the Lord Chamberlain in 1597 they were known as the Lord Chamberlain’s Men.

The company had need of a new playhouse.  The lease of the land in Shoreditch (north of the city wall) on which their current playhouse, The Theatre, stood was due to expire.

The prospect of a “common playhouse” in their midst caused an outbreak of nimbyism among the residents of Blackfriars, and they petitioned the Privy Council asking that the project be stopped.  Which it was, but not before James Burbage had spent around £1000 on alterations and refurbishments.

The petitioners were led by Elizabeth, Lady Russell, who styled herself Countess of Bedford even though her husband died before his father did and so never inherited the title of Earl.  Lady Russell was the aunt of Sir Robert Cecil, who’d replaced his father William Cecil, Lord Burghley, as the most powerful man in England.

Other notable signatories were Lord Hunsdon himself, and the printer Richard Field, who published William Shakespeare’s first printed work, the narrative poem Venus and Adonis.

Because Field was a contemporary of Shakespeare’s from Stratford upon Avon, some of Shakespeare’s biographers have speculated that he was also a friend.  If so, Shakespeare, a member of Lord Hunsdon’s Men, might not have felt too pleased with him.

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95:  My Doings at Linkin’s House

A black, white and orange cat against a background of flames.The day after Linkin told all that his mistress would go to London, I paid him another visit.

“I believe,” sayt I, setting down the fat rat I carried, “that I was too hastie in my first reading of my uncle’s Will.  I’ve seen now that he was most desirous for you to have a rat, even though you sought no fee from him.”

Linkin scarce looked at it.  I feared he was still offended with me.

“Caught this very morn,” sayt I. “In the malthouse.  A fragrant gift for your mistress.”

Linkin sayt nowt.

“My uncle,” sayt I, “set great store by your friendship.  He praised your wisdom many a time.  Even when there was none to hear him do it.”

Then I chanced to look up and saw that sly rogue Nero watching from behind the hedge.  He narrowed his eyes and turned away, but I knew he’d guessed what I was at.  I prayed he’d keep his thoughts to hisself.

Linkin sayt, “My house is turned topsy-turvy.  Our bed pulled down before mine eyes, and taken by a carrier.”

“Is your mistress still within?” I arrkst.

“No,” sayt Linkin, distracted.  “She rose early.”

(This answer so joyed Nero that he fell on his back and lay with his feet in the air.) 

“I mean,” sayt I, “is she still within the house?”  I feared I’d come too late and his mistress was gone.

“She’s making baskets ready,” sayt Linkin.  “And when I sat in one she spake a wicked word and cast me out the door.”   

“Are you not to go with her?” I arrkst, dismayed.

“I believe I shall.  She sayt that what she would not entrust to carriers will travel with her.  But I never thought to see the day when I’d share a horse with fowl.”

A brightly coloured rooster standing against a fence.

“You’ll go on horseback?”  (I’d thought there’d be a cart I could slip aboard.)

“I told you,” sayt Linkin.  “She’s preparing baskets.  But what if some calamity befalls us on the way, and I cannot free myself?  How can I flee robbers?  Our dog Wattie has sworn to protect me.  Well, he may talk fierce, but he is little.”

“Courage, friend,” called Nero, slipping through the hedge.  “Did not your mistress and her servants win the day when they gave battle in Cambridge-town?”

“That,” sayt Linkin, “was afore I was born.  I know no more of it than you do.”

“You know your mistress bought a brace of pistols when all feared the Spanish,” sayt Nero.  “Certes, she’ll carry them charged upon her saddle bow.  Best you tell her horse not to stumble, else they may discharge theirselves at him.  Or you.”

A black cat looking thoughtful.
Nero – Sea Cat, Adventurer, Poet, and Troublemaker.

He paused, then sayt, “Now tell me, friend, has your mistress prepared a basket for me?”

I knew Nero arrkst that in jest, but his words set Linkin about.  He wants no chamber-fellow.

“What?” cried Linkin. “Would you desert your master, who took you in after your old captain died?  You live well in his house.  He dropped by not long since with a bag of kitchen-eel [cochineal], and my mistress paid him in good coin.”

“True,” sayt Nero.  “We have a box of it that fell from a ship in Portsmouth.  And Queen Puss has so much, she’s forbid the import of more.  That keeps the price high, and us in choice vittles.  I thought to make a song of it, but verses on the Perilous Peregrinations of Mrs Quickfire and the Custard Cat will gather more applauds.”

I sayt, in haste, to Linkin, “You came safe here from London.  Sure, you can return safe.”

“I was little more than a kitling then,” sayt Linkin.  “I kept snug beneath my master’s coat, and we made good speed.”

“Then think not of this tedious journey, but of your destination.  Where will you lodge in the citie?”

That cheered him.  “I’ve never seen the house,” he sayt, “but I hear ’tis most commodious.  And nigh unto the Strand, where noble Essex dwells.  My mistress saw him ride by once.  He doffed his cap and bent his head to her.”

“Looking at her bubs, most like,” sayt Nero.  “Has she not a very fair pair?”

“Well, friend,” sayt I to Linkin, “All shall be sad to see you go.  When comes that day?”

“Soon,” sayt Linkin.  “If we have fair weather.”

“I’ll bide here till then,” sayt I.  “For ’twill grieve me to lose you so close upon my uncle.”

“Ah,” sayt Nero.  “Parting is such sweet sorrow.  As your uncle once sayt.”

“Didn’t he also say that a cat may whurr and whurr, yet be a villain?” I arrkst Nero.

Then I sayt to Linkin, “Best you offer your mistress this fine rat before Wattie your dog snaps it and wins the praise that should be yours.  And then I should like to make the akwayntance of the horse who’ll carry you.  Shall Wattie also ride with you?”

Wattie loved to chase me.  There was no malice in him; he thought I was his playfellow, but I feared he could end my voyage to the citie before it was begun.

A small section from a 1572 map of London.


Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorTravel wasn’t easy in Elizabethan England.  However, this is a journey Linkin’s mistress must have made many times, though with less luggage.

Nero thinks Linkin is over-anxious.  Custard Cat may have been a reference to Linkin’s ginger and white fur, but “custard” also meant “coward”.  Does anyone else remember the children’s chant of “Cowardy cowardy custard”?

Nero could afford to make fun of Linkin.  He’d returned a hero from the Earl of Essex’ Islands Voyage the previous year, along with so much cochineal and indigo from captured Spanish cargoes that the market was at risk of being flooded.